There’s one thing that people didn’t warn us about before we had kids: all the stuff.
Oh, sure, we knew about it in some aspects of parenting life: We saw the ever-growing list of must-haves on a registry and did our best to pare that down, and of course, we knew about the perils of the play room. No matter how much you try to streamline the toys, they have a way of multiplying like naughty little gremlins that get underfoot (ouch) and into every room you swore they would never be (ugh).
No, I’m talking about all the stuff that kids require on a daily basis when you’re schlepping them all over creation. Sometimes it looks like I’m taking a weekend trip when I’m just heading out for the afternoon. It was bad when the kids were babies, but you know what? I’ve got a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old now, and while I’ve mercifully ditched the diapers, there’s still a ton of other crap that I always seem to be toting around.
There are the toys, the clothing changes, the sports gear, the snacks, the drinks and the wipes/tissues/napkins, not to mention my own stuff. Plus, I never have enough room in one bag. My back ends up killing me, and I look like a caricature of a soccer mom. (Side note: I am actually a soccer mom.)
That’s why I was intrigued when I came across the Knack Pack. It’s billed as the solution to all of my problems as I embark on “one-bag life.”
It’s a plain, sleek backpack that supposedly expands to fit a mini universe. There are two sizes, and I chose the large to test out and review because, well, I’m a mom and an overpacker, to boot. Still, I was a little skeptical: It had always seemed easier to use a shoulder tote since I could stuff everything in there somewhat haphazardly, and did Knack Pack really understand the extent of my overpacking problems? Probably not…but I was willing to give it a try!
I’m glad to say that I was happily surprised.
The first test was a trip over spring break to see the grandparents. My parents live about an hour away, and when we visit, we camp out for the day. I needed a change of clothes for each kid in case they spilled something on themselves (or the 3-year-old had an accident) and/or for a dinner out, nice shoes and a makeup bag for myself, just-in-case activities and tiny toys for the kids, and pajamas to change them into for the car ride home. Oh, and let’s not forget my computer. I rarely leave home without it, especially when I have free babysitters to take the reins for an hour.
I loved the way all of our stuff packed neatly in the bag. The clothes went into the main section of the Knack Pack, with my shoes (in a little shoe bag to keep everything clean) on the bottom, and the makeup case and a plastic bag filled with snacks for the car ride went on top. My laptop and the kids’ books and activities went into the large inside compartment.
So, I had a lot of stuff, but I probably wouldn’t use it all, right? Wrong. We ended up staying overnight unexpectedly, and I was thanking my lucky stars for my well-packed bag. I just wish that I had included a few items for myself so I didn’t have to do the mom version of the walk of shame the next day. There would have been plenty of room for that, too.
I also couldn’t help but think of how awesome this would have been when we went to Florida a few months ago. My carry-on was a disaster for all of the reasons that I mentioned above with my regular weekend tote—but worse because it was so heavy on my shoulder during the long walk through the airport with the kids. The Knack Pack was a joy to carry around, since the weight was evenly distributed on my shoulders and the part that lays against your back is padded.
I was impressed with my little overnight adventure, so I was excited to use the Knack Pack again the following weekend during our usual daylong sports-and-kids marathon. My 7-year-old son plays soccer in two different leagues on Saturdays, and my poor daughter gets dragged along. Those days are what I was really hoping the Knack Pack would be useful for since they come around a lot more frequently than overnight trips. Packing for them mostly entails a change of clothing for my son, assorted sports paraphernalia like shin guards, goalie gloves and layers (it’s been unseasonably cold lately!), two types of sunscreen, hats, snacks, and toys to distract my daughter.
Now, I always have two main issues with my regular totes on these excursions: The first is that toys for 3-year-olds can be bulky, especially if we’re going to the park. And, of course, I never know what she’s going to be in the mood for. A soccer ball? Sand toys? Her baby doll? A coloring book with markers? It could be anything, though it’s usually accompanied by snacks and a lollipop because, well, I just need her to sit there for some of that time so I can watch her brother play. (I’m not above bribery in those situations. Don’t judge!)
The other problem is that I always need to pack water bottles for both kids, which inevitably gets the inside of my bag slightly wet and slightly gross. (It was even grosser when I was still packing milk for my daughter.) Since I also usually pack granola bars, which can subsequently get thrown back into a wrapper and a bag half-eaten, the water can make that mealy and messy. But since the Knack Pack is a backpack, it has a side drink compartment, which keeps everything separate and dry. I wish there were two, but I can stuff the second water bottle in the front compartment.
The Knack Pack passed the sports-weekend test with flying colors, and even better, I now always keep it half-packed, so I can grab it quickly and top it off with whatever else I need for the particular day. It’s also made from a super durable, water-resistant material, which I’m assuming will come in extra handy on rainy, muddy weekends on the sports field, when I’m not being quite as careful with it as I am right now. It’s a bit pricey ($195 for the large; $175 for the medium), but if you’re using it all the time as a mom or a frequent traveler, it’s absolutely worth the money. Also, let’s be honest: You get what you pay for, and the quality is excellent. This will last forever and see you through a number of situations.
Another bonus: My husband loves it, which means he’ll carry it, unlike my other girlier totes that he holds on the tips of his fingers like a dirty diaper. When I first took it out of the box, he was like, “Ooooh, what’s this? This is really nice.” And it is…which is why he keeps trying to steal it for his own weekend exploits. My unusually large 7-year-old was impressed, too. (See below.) Personally, I adore the pattern on the inside of the bag and wish it also extended to the outside. Maybe a future version will have that option. (Hint, hint!)
So, I’m sold! Am I a one-bag girl now? Sort of. For those longer trips, I’ll still bring a purse along with my Knack Pack because there’s no reason for me to tote around all the stuff everywhere we go. And I’m never going to be a one-bag airplane traveler, kids or not. But for those sports weekends, definitely. I can throw my wallet in there, a packet of tissues and some Purell, along with all the kid stuff, and I’m all set. Everything’s in one place, so I don’t risk losing important things. There are even two small zipped sections on the inside of the bag and one on the outer front flap so you can do that, or stow a cell phone or whatever else. It has made mom life so much easier in a way that I didn’t even realize was possible.
Also, before I tie up this post, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another product that I found while poking around on the Knack Pack’s website: the Knack Margarita Travel Kit.
Yes, you read that right: It’s a margarita kit that contains margarita syrup, salt for the rim, a mini spoon, a recipe card and a linen coaster. You have to bring your own tequila, so pick your favorite and you’re all set! It’s TSA-approved so you can bring it on a plane in your carry-on…or anywhere else. And seriously, how cute would this be as a gift for your mom friends? It’s just $24, so it’s super affordable, too. Cheers!
For more on Knack Packs and the company’s other assorted products, check out knackbags.com.
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